This Is Exactly What Protein Does to Your Body

We've all heard that protein is good for our bodies that we need to make sure our diet contains enough, but we've never really studied why. What does protein do to your body? We wondered. A deep dive into your most common searches shows that you've thought about it, too. Why are there protein shakes and bars? We decided to ask Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, the founder of Nutritious Life, exactly these questions for real, science-based information.
Below, she describes exactly what protein does in your body and how your diet can help keep everything working properly, from your hormones to growing your hair and nails. Keep scrolling for all of the information you've been looking for.
Make hormones
Some hormones (like human growth hormone) are made using amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Protein hormones regulate your metabolism and cell function. Similarly, protein helps control the secretion of hunger hormones in your body, says Glassman. The American Council on Exercise agrees, noting, "Proteins trigger a hormonal response from glucagon that redirects blood sugar to the muscles. This hormonal response lowers blood sugar levels, which helps reduce hunger pangs."
Build and repair tissues
"The main function of the protein in food is to build and repair cells," notes the American Council on Exercise. So, if you're interested in muscle growth (or have pulled or torn something in your body) a high-protein diet can help. Glassman says, "When muscles are put under extreme stress, the tiny fibers that make up muscles tear. To repair those cracks, it takes protein." Most adults need 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per day, while bodybuilders need between 1.4 and 1.7 grams.
Keep your hair and nails healthy
Your hair and nails "are made up of structural proteins known as keratin. Therefore, getting enough dietary protein is important in creating the building blocks for strong hair and nails to grow," Nina DiBona, RD, told Woman's Day. Glassman adds, "When it comes to sources of animal protein, stick to high-quality sources like organic chicken, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught salmon."
Hum Nutrition Hair Sweet Hair ($ 25)
Boost your metabolism and your mood
"Higher protein diets have been linked to an increase in 'thermogenesis,' which is the process of burning heat or calories," reports the American Council on Exercise. In addition to regulating your metabolism, the "amino acids in protein help reduce anxiety, mood swings and even depression. Eating protein prevents blood sugar fluctuations to help prevent mood swings and food cravings," the council explains. Glassman suggests supplementing your regular daily intake with HumanN SuperBeets Collagen ($ 40) to ensure a good source of high quality bovine collagen throughout the week.
HumanN SuperBeets Collagen ($ 40)
Below is an easy-to-reference cheat sheet with recommended protein sources. Bring it next time you go to the grocery store and you are good to go.
365 common almonds ($ 7)
Almonds (1 ounce is 6 grams)
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